Serious charges against a young St. John’s man were dropped in court Wednesday, but equally serious allegations are now being made about the RNC that could lead to a criminal investigation into the police force.
Last December, Bradley Bartlett was leaving a Christmas party at Dooly’s on Topsail Road. He was waiting for a cab with a drink outside and smashed the glass. During an attempted arrest, an altercation with police led to three charges against Bartlett of assaulting a police officer. There was also a fourth charge of resisting arrest.
Crown prosecutor Natalie Payne dropped those charges Wednesday because it was determined there were no grounds for the arrest in the first place that led to the altercation. The Crown also said there was no likelihood of a conviction.
Bartlett’s lawyer, Bob Simmonds, then told the court that as a result of what Bartlett told him, and the eyewitness accounts of several others who were also at the Dooly’s party that night, the incident didn’t involve Bartlett assaulting officers, but an officer assaulting him.
Pictures taken by a witness on the scene show a bloodied Bartlett being arrested by police.
Simmonds said he initially thought the blood was from Bartlett hitting his face on the ground.
But Bartlett’s version, which coincides with that of several eyewitnesses, is that an RNC police officer punched Bartlett in the face three times, Simmonds said.
Simmonds said he was shocked by the pictures and the allegations.
“I thought this was one of the most — no, not one of the most — the most egregious case, if made out, of misconduct by the police that I’ve ever seen,” Simmonds said after court had adjourned.
Simmonds said he would write to RNC Chief of Police Bill Janes to request a criminal investigation into the incident. Bartlett would be filing an official complaint with the RNC as well, the lawyer said.
Wednesday afternoon following the court proceedings, Janes addressed the issue at a news conference. He said on the December night, police officers saw a man they thought was drinking outside Dooly’s on Topsail Road.
“While attempting to investigate the matter that they were responding to, there was a physical altercation between the officers and the suspect and the suspect sustained injuries,” Janes said.
The officers took Bartlett to the hospital for his injuries, which didn’t involve any broken bones, but consisted of cuts and bruises. As far as Janes knew, no officers were injured during the incident, he said.
Janes said the first he heard of the matter was Wednesday afternoon and at that point no complaint had been made to the RNC Public Complaints Commission — an independent body whose job it is to review complaints against officers and, where appropriate, call for investigations.
Four officers were on the scene that night, one of whom allegedly punched Bartlett. Simmonds was advised by the Crown attorney’s office that the police said they couldn’t get any co-operation from any other civilians at the scene that night, so no statements were taken.
Witnesses that Simmonds interviewed are telling a different story, he said. Two say they were trying to speak with police, but police treated them as though they were part of the problem.
“(The police) told them to get away, they were obstructing justice,” Simmonds said.
In the case of one witness, a heated exchange with police allegedly took place.
Simmonds said alcohol was obviously involved in the incident.
“That, however, does not mandate or allow for the kind of action that I am advised took place here. And I believe a proper investigation will determine whether my witnesses are full of it or whether indeed there is a real concern here.”
If and when Bartlett files a complaint with the RNC Public Complaints Commission, it will then decide if an investigation is warranted.